World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Iron law of oligarchy

 

Iron law of oligarchy

The iron law of oligarchy is a political theory, first developed by the German [1] He went on to state that "Historical evolution mocks all the prophylactic measures that have been adopted for the prevention of oligarchy."[1] Michels stated that the official goal of representative democracy of eliminating elite rule was impossible, that representative democracy is a façade legitimizing the rule of a particular elite, and that elite rule, that he refers to as oligarchy, is inevitable.[1] Later Michels migrated to Italy and joined Benito Mussolini's Fascist Party, as he believed was the next legitimate step of modern societies. The thesis became popular once more in post-war America with the publication of Union Democracy: The Internal Politics of the International Typographical Union (1956) and during the red scare brought about by McCarthyism.

Contents

  • History 1
  • Reasons 2
  • Implications 3
  • Examples and exceptions 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

History

In 1911 Robert Michels argued that [2][3]

At the time Michels formulated his Law, he was an anarcho-syndicalist.[3] He later became an important ideologue of Benito Mussolini's fascist regime in Italy, teaching economics at the University of Perugia.[4][5]

Reasons

Michels stressed several factors that underlie the Iron Law of Oligarchy. Darcy K. Leach summarized them briefly as: "Bureaucracy happens. If bureaucracy happens, power rises. Power corrupts."[3] Any large organization, Michels pointed out, has to create a

  • Political Parties by Robert Michels in PDF
  • Verstehen: Max Weber's Home Page By Frank W. Elwell. 'Oligarchy' section describes the Law. Last accessed on 27 May 2006.

External links

  • Michels, Robert. 1915. Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy. Translated into English by Eden Paul and Cedar Paul. New York: The Free Press. From the 1911 German source.
  • Robert Michels und das eherne Gesetz der Oligarchie by Gustav Wagner in "Wer wählt, hat seine Stimme abgegeben" Graswurzel Revolution pp. 28

References

  1. ^ a b c d e James L. Hyland. Democratic theory: the philosophical foundations. Manchester, England, UK; New York, New York, USA: Manchester University Press ND, 1995. p. 247.
  2. ^ a b c d Frank W. Elwell, Max Weber's Home Page "A site for undergraduates" at Rogers State University]. Last accessed on 27 May 2006
  3. ^ a b c d e Darcy K. Leach, The Iron Law of What Again? Conceptualizing Oligarchy Across Organizational Forms, Sociological Theory, Volume 23, Number 3, September 2005 , pp. 312-337(26). IngentaConnect
  4. ^ Nicos P. Mouzelis (1968). Organisation and bureaucracy: an analysis of modern theories. Transaction Publishers. p. 29.  
  5. ^ Gerald Friedman (2007). Reigniting the labor movement: restoring means to ends in a democratic labor movement. Psychology Press. p. 53.  
  6. ^ "Whatever happened to the German Greens?". Red Pepper. 2014-06-26. Retrieved 2014-07-10. 
  7. ^ Citation Classics Commentary on Union Democracy PDF (254 KB), Seymour Martin Lipset, 20/1988. Last accessed on 16 September 2006
  8. ^ "Lipset's Union Democracy After 40 Years". Ou.edu. 1920-06-12. Retrieved 2014-07-10. 

Notes

See also

[8] Lipset and his collaborators also cite a number of other factors which are specific to craft unions in general and the printing crafts in particular, including the homogeneity of the membership, with respect to their work and lifestyles, their identification with their craft, their more middle class lifestyle and pay. For this latter point he draws upon

One of the best known exceptions to the iron law of oligarchy was the now defunct autonomy, which existed long before the international was formed. This local autonomy was strengthened by the economy of the printing industry which operated in largely local and regional markets, with little competition from other geographical areas. Large locals continued to jealously guard this autonomy against encroachments by international officers. Second, the existence of factions helped place a check on the oligarchic tendencies that existed at the national headquarters. Leaders that are unchecked tend to develop larger salaries and more sumptuous lifestyles, making them unwilling to go back to their previous jobs. But with a powerful out faction ready to expose profligacy, no leaders dared take overly generous personal remuneration. These two factors were compelling in the ITU case.

The size and complexity of a group or organization is important to the Iron Law as well. During the 1970s and early 1980s, the Green Party of Germany made a conscious effort to break the Iron Law.[6] Anyone could be or could remove a party official. There were no permanent offices or officers. Even the smallest, most routine decisions could be put up for discussion and to a vote. When the party was small, these anti-oligarchic measures enjoyed some success. But as the organization grew larger and the party became more successful, the need to effectively compete in elections, raise funds, run large rallies and demonstrations and work with other political parties once elected, led the Greens to adopt more conventional structures and practices.

An example that Michels used in his book was Germany's Social Democratic Party.[3]

Examples and exceptions

The "iron law of oligarchy" states that all forms of organization, regardless of how democratic they may be at the start, will eventually and inevitably develop

Implications

Bureaucracy by design leads to centralization of power by the leaders. Leaders also have control over sanctions and rewards. They tend to promote those who share their opinions, which inevitably leads to self-perpetuating oligarchy.[2] People achieve leadership positions because they have above-average political skill (see charismatic authority). As they advance in their careers, their power and prestige increases. Leaders control the information that flows down the channels of communication, censoring what they do not want the rank-and-file to know. Leaders will also dedicate significant resources to persuade the rank-and-file of the rightness of their views.[2] This is compatible with most societies: people are taught to obey those in positions of authority. Therefore the rank and file show little initiative, and wait for the leaders to exercise their judgment and issue directives to follow.

Bureaucratization and rationalization and routinization of authority and decision making, a process described first and perhaps best by Max Weber, later by John Kenneth Galbraith, and to a lesser and more cynical extent by the Peter Principle.

This process is further compounded, as delegation is necessary in any large organization, as thousands—sometimes hundreds of thousands—of members cannot make decisions via participatory democracy. This has been dictated by the lack of technological means for large numbers of people to meet and debate, and also by matters related to crowd psychology, as Michels argued that people feel a need to be led. Delegation, however, leads to specialization—to the development of knowledge bases, skills and resources among a leadership—which further alienates the leadership from the rank and file and entrenches the leadership in office.

[3][2]

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
 
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
 
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.
 


Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.